The land mass issue
There are costs to everything we do - upsides, downsides, pros vs cons. Solar and wind technologies, while important tools for clean power generation, are no exception to the "hidden" cost rules. These technologies are definitely not "free" by any stretch of the imagination. New 4MW wind turbines run about 5 million a piece. Solar cells are costly as well and inefficient (about 15%-20% efficient) even when the sun is shining directly overhead. Both wind and solar require vast amounts of land. Both technologies are 100% dependent on the weather. Both are considered "intermittent" power producers, due to their dependence on the weather. Another name for this type of intermittent power generation is "unreliable." As our weather becomes more unstable and even less dependable, we question the viability of putting all our power-eggs into this unstable and increasingly fragile basket.
How much land are we talking about?
We calculate that for every 1 GW of power produced with a combination of solar and wind, we need an estimated 82 square miles or 52,480 acres. Rough cost calculations, excluding the land leased/purchase, puts each combined 1GW solar/wind at $4.5 billion. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US is projected to grow 1% each year in electricity usage from 2020 to 2050. Currently, In 2020, the US consumed 3.8 trillion kilowatt hours. One percent of this yearly total equals 38 billion kilowatt hours. Further calculations means we need to produce an extra 4,337,899 KW or about 4.5 GW power plants EACH year. And if we go with wind and solar, that means each year the US gives up 236,000 acres of land. Between now and 2050, just to make up for the increasing power demand, we will need to sacrifice over 7 million acres of land at a whopping $607 billion dollars.
This is just to keep up with annual increased power production, and does not address the 3.8 trillion kWh gorilla in the room.
Solar farms require 4-7 acres per megawatt. A 50 MW solar farm consumes 250 acres. A 100 MW solar farm that requires 500 acres of land usage will produce 192,720,000 kWhs (0.1927 TWhs) per year - considering a national average capacity factor of 22% (Sun Energy Time). To replace a 1 GW power plant using only solar, we would need about 25,000 acres. If we factor in the rising fleet of electron-hungry BEVs, our national electrical consumption rises dramatically to DOUBLE our national capacity by 2050 (an additional 3,802 TWhs) to supply only 60% of the new BEVs in the US for charging would require a land mass of 190,000,000 square acres - or converted to 296,875 square miles. That's slightly more than the entire land mass of the state of Texas! (268,596 square miles).
What about wind turbines?
We need to consider the equation for wind farms to increase the energy capacity of our national grid to an additional 3,802 terawatt hours by 2050. We calculate (for simplicity of math) a 1 GW wind farm operating at 42% capacity factor (Wind Energy Time). This 1 GW wind farm will require 250 individual wind turbines of 4 MWs generating capacity each turbine. Wind turbine requires 5 rotor diameters spacing in each column (10 columns) and 7 rotor diameter in each row (12.5 rows) - .686 square kilometers per turbine - a total of 343 square kilometers (132.4 square miles).
This 1 GW wind farm will produce 3,679,2000,000 kWhs per year - (3.679 TWhs) considering a national average capacity factor (WET) of 42%. To produce the required additional power to the grid based on the needed 3,803 terrawatt hours to charge 66% of the new BEVs - we would need 3000 of these 1 GW wind farms. This amount of land mass would total 397,200 square miles. (More than twice the entire land mass of the entire state of California)
To consider a 50/50 mix of solar and wind to supply the additional energy required to "Super Charge" these hungry batteries cruising the highways of the US - while leaving ALL the fossil based power plants in place - it would still require 70% of that total land mass to supply the national grid with enough power to charge those batteries. BUT - this is WITHOUT BACK UP for the remaining part of the year when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow.
Do we really want to rely 100% on the changing weather to "fix" our weather changing problem?
To further complicate matters, we cannot just place wind turbines anywhere. We have to concentrate them in the best Wind Zone Areas. Solar and wind are 100% dependent on the weather - which is changing by the day and becoming more unreliable and severe. One good storm can wipe out an entire solar farm in an afternoon. A partially cloudy day can decrease solar output by 15-20%. Snow, dust, rain, hail - all decrease solar cell efficiency. And if the wind dies - so does the power. If it's too, windy, the turbines shut down to avoid damage. Why are we concentrating on weather power to fix the weather?
Our Hy-fuels are just one solution for rapidly stabilizing our ever-changing climate while lowering pollution and emissions levels as quickly as possible. These next-gen Hy-fuels will help pave the way for a cleaner, more sustainable future, and are just one solution from a company dedicated help keeping our planet green and clean without sacrificing massive landmass and turning the US landscape into the "Land of the Wind Turbines" instead of the "Land of the Free."
To be clear, we are not anti-solar or anti-wind or anti-electric vehicles. These technologies are important tools- just not the whole toolbox. Together, all of our industries must work together, collectively, to find real-world solutions that are both immediate, affordable, and doable. At Element One Technologies, we are committed to finding innovative solutions for the most pressing problems facing us today. And while the task might be monumental, it is not impossible. For us, the future looks clean, sustainable, renewable, healthy, and built for everyone. We invite you to join us as we develop a new path forward, based in cooperation, not turf-building.
Where do we start?
We start with a new mind-set. We begin with the hard realization that our civilization and indeed, all of humanity, are 100% dependent on a healthy, natural ecosystem. Full stop. Living inside the artificial walls of our cities and homes, our world often appears to be a totally human-designed and manufactured world. We tend to forget our reliance on the natural world for our basic survival. But far from being removed from nature, we are part of nature and part of a bigger whole. We can no longer afford "business as usual." It is time to advance our civilization, and to do that, we must face the facts, and readjust our base-assumptions. Change is inevitable, and our climate and world are rapidly changing. Our Hy-fuels are just one puzzle-piece in a complex and unfolding drama that includes all of us. And our part in this often overwhelming play, just got a little easier.
Since every corner of the world is facing climate catastrophes - from wild fires, floods, tornadoes, droughts, flooding, hurricanes to wild fires - collaboration between companies - even competitors - different peoples, nations and even opposing governments is essential to build an entire new infrastructure and economy. Multi-billions must be allocated and invested around the world. The greatest feats of engineering will be required to synchronize every element in the equation from input to output to ensure a smooth flowing operation to respond to the highs and lows of inconsistent demand with reliable on-time supply. It is not a time of what is better or more efficient - it is a time of what works and what doesn't work reliably and consistently to create the least complicated solutions for power and energy production, fuel development and clean emissions.
How fast can we change the planet? About five minutes with your next fill-up...